Mobile broadband

Creating the infrastructure so that broadband connectivity can be anywhere throughout the commonwealth.

The Broadband Commission consisting of ICT sector stakeholders established by UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has set four clear targets for making broadband policy universal and for boosting affordability and broadband uptake:

  • Target 1: Making broadband policy universal. By 2015, all countries should have a national broadband plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access/Service Definitions.
  • Target 2: Making broadband affordable. By 2015, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries through adequate regulation and market forces (amounting to less than 5% of average monthly income).
  • Target 3: Connecting homes to broadband. By 2015, 40% of households in developing countries should have Internet access.
  • Target 4: Getting people online. By 2015, Internet user penetration should reach 60% worldwide, 50% in developing countries and 15% in LDCs.

Given the constraints of existing infrastructures, these ambitious targets can only be achieved through an expansion in the provision of mobile broadband services, in the form of wireless Internet access through a portable or mobile device.  For poorer countries, without extensive fixed line infrastructure, mobile broadband technologies are an effective way through which they can achieve the delivery of high-speed Internet access to mass markets, thereby ensuring that their populations can utilise the development benefits of such technologies.

Many companies and organisations have come together to form the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to develop a series of standards that provide the basis of Third Generation (3G) mobile broadband technologies, including EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution), CDMA2000 1X/EVDO (Evolution Data Optimised), WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access, or W-CDMA), UMTS HSPA (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System High Speed Packet Access), and more recently LTE (Long Term Evolution) and 4G.

Mobile Broadband is a key focus of the CTO’s work, due to the potential it has to promote further development across the world; a world in which the uptake of smart phones exceeds that of personal computers in many countries.  Smart mobile devices and a multitude of digital applications have enabled users to run their businesses, access financial and health records, conduct research, and complete transactions using their mobile devices. This has also meant a major shift in consumer expectations and requiring manufacturers to adopt new technologies like NFC (Near Field Communications) and to develop handsets continually to meet consumer expectations.

The CTO works with all stakeholders to encourage the rapid and effective roll out of mobile broadband.  We place particular emphasis on this because mobile infrastructure and devices have the potential to provide broadband access to as many people as possible in the shortest  time.  The CTO has a wealth of expertise and experience in this field, and has successfully delivered international conferences, capacity development training programmes and many research projects.  The focus of the CTO Forum 2012 in Mauritius, for example, was “Mobile Broadband for Development”, and other events such as the Pacific Broadband Forum, jointly organised by ITU and the CTO in 2012 also addressed this important theme.

In particular, the CTO is especially interested in ways through which mobile broadband can be used to enhance food security at a range of scales, from the national to the local.  There are many exciting initiatives, for example, that can enable nomadic pastoralists to gain information about the quality of pasture through mobile sensor networks, or through which sensors can also be used to provide information to farmers about the quality of grain being stored in their granaries.  Mobile broadband has huge potential to help communities and countries ensure that they are better prepared to achieve food security.